Need advice about a truck and camping trailer combination
March 29, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

US/Colorado; I need a used but new to me truck, both to get around and to I hope pull a camping trailer. Due to divorce, unemployment, and other snowflake things I have a pretty tight budget, and will probably not be approved for financing. My credit score is Low. I have a new job and all is looking good though, so the future is bright.

In the past I have had the luxury of being new vehicles but for various reasons this time around it has tob be a used truck.
I am leaning towards a Toyota Tundra or a Ford 150 or 250, or a Chevy Silverado. First and foremost I need a reliable way to get about.
For that any of the above would work, and the biggest factor for me is price would like to spend about 8000 but if I have to I can probably come up with 13000. I believe I will not be approved for financing. (Unless somebody knows how to get financing with a very slow credit score).

However, I plan to keep this truck for quite a while and I have a dream about buying a camper and going camping with my friends in the mountains every weekend.

I have looked at the pop ups, and I think the Tundra could pull most of the pop ups. I would prefer that the camping vehicle have a shower, a toilet and an AC. Outside shower is fine, and som electricity. There are so many choices out there and including hybrids and ultralights and so on.
For this I am currently looking at used options as well though my purchase will be a year or more from now. I am currently educating myself about the choices and trying to make an informed decision on the camping trailer and my new truck.

So I need a truck that can pull a camper that could provide electricity, ac, a toilet and a shower. Does that mean I have to look into the Ford F250 range of truck to ensure I have enough power to drag it up the mountains? Or would a Toyota Tundra probably do the trick?
A lot of the people online who pull trailers seem to believe a 250/2500
is required.

I would strongly prefer to buy a reliable truck now, that would suffice for my camping needs later.

So everyone, advice, hints, tips. There has to be a few of you who know a lot about camping trailers. I cannot get a 5th wheel or just a topper because I need the bed free for specific use. Am I dreaming of unicorns again?

What camping trailer would you recommend and what truck to go with it, even though I am buying the truck first.
posted by digividal to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
If you are going to tow, you need to learn your way through the maze of tow ratings. It's a big pain, because for any given vehicle (eg Ford F150), the tow ratings vary by year, engine, transmission, wheelbase, drivetrain, and possible options like a factory tow package -- for example, the 2012 F150's ratings vary from 5500 pounds to over 11,000 pounds, based on model and options. It's absolutely not as simple as saying Tundras can tow X, and F150s can tow Y. And then you have to keep an eye on not exceeding trailer tongue loads, rear axle loads, and rated tire capacities.

Pulling a trailer up a mountain is no big deal (though you don't want to be this guy) -- the reason you pay attention to tow ratings is for going down the mountain. Turning and stopping with a trailer is where people get in trouble.

So everything hinges on the "wet" or loaded weight (ie its weight including all your water, food, luggage, firewood, etc) of the trailer you end up choosing. You need to make that selection first, because there is a huge range, from tiny ultralight trailers able to be towed by a small car up to monster trailers the size of my house that need a diesel dually to pull them safely.
posted by Forktine at 5:29 PM on March 29, 2012

How many people do you need to sleep because there are plenty of trailers servicing your other needs in the sub 20' range that you can pull just fine with a F150. Especially if you step up to the 4.6 over the 4.2 or best the 5.4. It's a complicated matrix of engine size, drive train layout, body style and wheel base but you can see here that towing capabilities on say a 2007 F150 can range from 2300lbs to 10,500 lbs with the 4.6 bottoming out at 6000lbs.

Now if you want to pull a huge 30' trailer or some massive 5th wheel you'll want to step up to a larger truck but 6000lb loaded is a lot of trailer.
posted by Mitheral at 5:34 PM on March 29, 2012

Turning and stopping with a trailer is where people get in trouble.

This cannot be over-emphasized. You will be able to tow with a smaller rig and it will last a lot longer as well as be safer if you are a good tow driver so consider a class in towing before heading out.

Having said that most campers are pretty light unless you're talking about a huge fifth wheel or something that has two bedrooms.
posted by fshgrl at 5:46 PM on March 29, 2012

Response by poster: I only need to sleep 3-4 people and 2 dogs. :)
posted by digividal at 5:48 PM on March 29, 2012

You can pull a pop-up with a 1/2 ton; heck, my Subaru can pull a pop-up.

You'll probably be looking at an F-150 in your price range; they're plentiful and Tundras tend to hold more resale value. Be forewarned that this is a tough time to buy used. Prices on used vehicles are high right now, and looking for a high-demand vehicle (aka a truck in Colorado) can't help things in that department.

You'll want to get a V-8. While gas is a killer right now, you can actually even out a lot of that in Colorado. My sister (lives near Cortez) does about as well fuel-wise with her GMC 1/2 ton V-8 as she does with her V-6 vehicles. This is because she doesn't have to put as much foot into it to maintain highway speeds on the grades she drives on every day.

Keep in mind, though, that no matter what you do, gas will kill you in a truck. $3+ per gallon is likely here to stay. Commuting in a vehicle that costs you $100 a week to put gas in gets old quick.
posted by azpenguin at 8:04 PM on March 29, 2012

I only need to sleep 3-4 people and 2 dogs. :)

When you are figuring out tow ratings and truck capacities, don't forget to add in the weight of those four people and two dogs. A lot of half-ton trucks don't have enormous cargo capacities. Four people at 200 pounds each, plus two big dogs, some firewood, and a couple coolers of beer can put you close to your maximum capacity even before you add in the tongue weight of the trailer.

As someone who has owned both half-ton and 3/4 ton trucks (as well as a couple smaller ones along the way), I'd say that the difference comes down cost, comfort, and capacity. The heavy duty truck will cost you more to run -- more expensive to buy, more gas, bigger repair bills (because the parts are bigger and cost more), more expensive tires, etc. The half ton will be far more comfortable (and safer, because it handles better) to drive unloaded, which for most people is about 99.99 percent of the miles they drive; a heavy duty truck will beat you up every time you hit a bump in the road. But if you are going to be carrying or pulling heavy loads frequently, you need the heavy duty truck or one of the new half tons with tow ratings close to the bigger trucks. It's safer for you and everyone else on the road. It's not so much about bigger engines as it is about brakes, suspension, and a chassis made for huge loads.

The rules vary by state, but if the trailer is at all heavy you'll want trailer brakes, which of course adds cost -- more expensive trailer, and of course you'll need a brake controller installed in the truck.

From a safety standpoint, I don't think it's a good idea to be maxing out your tow or cargo capacities routinely. If your trailer is going to weigh 5000 pounds wet, don't buy a truck with a 5500 pound tow rating; it's far safer to be in the middle third of the capacities.

tl;dr: Go trailer shopping first, decide what will work for you, and then buy the truck that will work for the trailer you plan to buy.
posted by Forktine at 5:46 AM on March 30, 2012

« Older Another panicked 20-something coming your way...   |   Breaking Bad News Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.